Farmers and their crops live year-round at Mother Nature's mercy, coping with challenges that swing from drought to flooding, late freezes to insects.
But in the early morning hours of Nov. 30, 2016, an EF2 tornado swirled through the nearly 200-year-old Mayfield family farm in Athens, Tenn., leaving destruction in its wake. Buildings and structures on the farm damaged by the storm included fencing for animals, the historic milking parlor, a barn, ticketing and concession building, restrooms, kids slides, corn box and power poles.
After 10 months of rebuilding — and it's still a work in progress — the farm gates swung open to the public this week in time for Mayfield's annual corn maze and pumpkin patch.
"Not even a tornado could stop this year's Mayfield Corn Maze," says Michael Mayfield. "We can't wait to welcome our community back to the farm and to share in a lot of smiles and fun together. Between the Gatlinburg fire and the Athens and Cleveland tornadoes last fall, East Tennessee could sure use some fun."
Mayfield's is one of this season's crop of corn mazes opening to the public for fall fun. Getting lost in a golden sea of waving cornstalks has been a popular pastime since the first ones began sprouting up in the late 1990s. Now, of the 75 corn mazes in the state, 28 of them are located in East Tennessee — several of them within a day-trip's drive of Chattanooga. Here's an overview of where to find this family fun in the tri-state region.
Down On The Farm
» Where: 2257 Heaton Road, Rainsville, Ala.
» When: 4-9 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 4 (all times Central).
» Admission: $9 corn maze/playground only; $15 for combo ticket with pumpkin patch
» Design: "Lost In Time" with dinosaur images
» Fun at the farm: Pumpkin painting, hay bale maze, barnyard bone dig, rope maze, cow train, corn cannon.
» For more information: www.downonthefarminal.com
» Where: Blowing Springs Farm, 271 Chattanooga Valley Road, Flintstone, Ga.
» When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays-Sundays through Oct. 29
» Admission: $10 ages 4 and older
» Design: Celebrates Rock City's 85th anniversary with slogan "Each Season a New Reason"
» Fun at the farm: Pedal cars, duck races, pumpkin market, interactive playground with tunnel slides, Critter Corral, hay rides, cow train, corn slingshots.
» For more information: www.blowingspringsfarm.com
Guthrie Pumpkin Farm And Corn Maze
» Where: 490 County Road 67, Riceville, Tenn.
» When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 1-6 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 29
» Admission: $10 ages 13 and up, $8 ages 3-12
» Design: Harvest traditions
» Fun at the farm: Hayride to pumpkin field, petting barn, obstacle course, duck races, tractor dig, redneck horseshoes, Great Pumpkin 5k Run on Saturday, Sept. 30, to benefit Ronald McDonald House of Chattanooga.
» For more information: www.tnpumpkinfarm.com
Mayfield Corn Maze And Pumpkin Patch
» Where: 257 Highway 307, Athens, Tenn.
» When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, 1-7 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 31
» Admission: $11 adults, $9 ages 2-10
» Design: Celebrating the 35th birthday of Mayfield Creamery's Maggie the Cow, the design shows Maggie blowing out candles on her birthday cake
» Fun at the farm: Corn pit and slides, human foosball game, pumpkin patch, new concessions
» For more information: www.mayfieldmaze.com
Old Mcdonald's Farm
» Where: 16705 Coulterville Road, Sale Creek
» When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays, noon-7 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 29
» Admission: $12.50 ages 3 and older
» Design: Images of farm, tractor and animals
» Fun at the farm: Hay maze, Critter Barns, corn crib, slides, wagon rides, pumpkin patch, Barnyard 500 pedal cars, bouncy ponies,
» For more information: oldmcdonaldsfarm.net
The Pumpkin Patch Gang
» Where: Cedarwood Farms, 2900 Old Nashville Highway, McMinnville, Tenn.
» When: 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 31 (all times Central).
» Admission: $11 adults, $10 children; bonfires Friday and Saturday nights, admission $15 adults, $14 children
» Design: No specific design turns marked with signs to help visitors get out of maze
» Fun at the farm: Pumpkin patch, pumpkin train, corn crib, petting zoos, log walk, hay-bale climbs
» For more information: cedarwoodfarmstn.com
The River Maze
» Where: Birch Land Ocoee Farms, 1371 Highway 64, Ocoee, Tenn.
» When: 5-9 pm. Fridays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 29
» Admission: $10.98 ages 3 and older
» Design: "Over the River & Thru the Woods" is the corn maze design; "To Grandmother's House We Go" is the design of the soybean maze
» Fun at the farm: Four mazes, scavenger hunt using smartphones, story of Little Red Riding Hood in the soybean maze, pumpkin patch, Jump Pad, barnyard basketball, cow train ride, corn cannon, pumpkin painting
» For more information: www.TheRiverMaze.com
— Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce